Golders Green student Jeremiah Duggan told mother ‘I’m in deep deep trouble’ just before death
PUBLISHED: 20:00 20 May 2015 | UPDATED: 00:55 21 May 2015
The mother of a Jewish student who died in an apparent suicide in Germany told how her son was “destroyed” by a far-right organisation who may have “hunted him down” before his death.
Jeremiah Duggan, originally from Golders Green, was found dead on a motorway near to Wiesbaden on March 27, 2003 after he attended a youth conference hosted by the extremist group LaRouche in the city.
German police said his death was a suicide after witnesses claimed they saw Jeremiah try to jump out in front of several cars on the morning of his death.
But a new UK inquest today heard that 22-year-old Jeremiah had begun to question the ideology of the LaRouche group after being exposed to a gruelling schedule at the conference, with students attending hours of meetings, lectures, one-on-one sessions and seminars.
His mother Erica Duggan told Barnet Coroner’s Court that she believed her son was trying to get away from the group in the days and hours before his death.
She said: “I think he was destroyed by the LaRouche organisation because my son was a very outspoken, independent, intelligent, strong character. He would stand up for himself.
“He was outspoken and if he saw that something was wrong, if he was in a situation where somebody was saying something that wasn’t true he wouldn’t just back off, he would stand up and speak his mind, because he was like that and I’m like that too.”
The court heard that Jeremiah, a student at the Sorbonne University in Paris who had travelled to Wiesbaden for the youth conference, called his mother about 40 minutes before his death in a highly agitated state.
“As soon as I picked up the phone, immediately the very first thing he said was ‘I’m in deep, deep, trouble’,” his mother said.
“I knew by the sound of his voice that he was in a very dangerous situation.”
She said Jeremiah then named the political organisation Nouvelle Solidarite, a French version of a newspaper published by founder of the LaRouche organisation Lyndon LaRouche.
She said Jeremiah told her he “wanted to get away”.
Clearly upset, Ms Duggan said “My instinctive reaction, because I felt that his life was at stake at that point, I said ‘I love you’”, before the phone cut off and she dialled 999.
Later that day two police officers went to her house to say Jeremiah had died and was thought to have killed himself.
“I just screamed that I’d been ringing them all day and the one thing it wasn’t was suicide,” said Ms Duggan. “That’s the one thing we knew hadn’t happened to him because of the phone call.”
German cult expert Ursula Caberta said she was told Jeremiah was “hunted down” after the LaRouche group became suspicious that he was a “traitor and a spy”.
In a statement read to the court, the expert described telephone conversations she had with the mother of a LaRouche member who she met at a convention about LaRouche in Britain in 2008.
“Talking to me about the death of Jeremiah, she said to me that her son had said to her ‘It’s right that he’s dead. He was a traitor and a spy’,” said Ms Caberta.
“She repeated constantly that her son had said ‘We hunted him down’ and also she said that her son was responsible for the death.”
In a subsequent conversation the court heard the mother attempted to play down the claims, saying “she did want to say anything more about the matter”.
Alexis Weisberger, who was at the youth conference in Wiesbaden carrying out “sociological research” into the group, said at first Jeremiah had many questions about LaRouche’s ideology and beliefs but this changed as the conference went on.
“He was critical in the beginning, but at the end of five days all that was lost – eating, sleeping and singing together you end up being exhausted with no power to think for yourself,” his statement said.
Yesterday, the court heard statements from three drivers that a man fitting Jeremiah’s description “jumped in front of their cars”.
Jeremiah’s body was found on the autobahn in Wiesbaden after he apparently jumped into the path of a Peugeot 406 and was then run-over by a Volkswagen Golf.
But forensic scientist Alan Bayle, who examined photographs of the crash scene, today said he believed the accident was “staged” with no traces of Jeremiah’s blood or clothing on the two cars and no trace of glass on his body.
Coroner for north London Andrew Walker asked Mr Bayle: “You say, I firmly believe that this incident was staged, that Mr Duggan met his death somewhere else and Mr Duggan’s body was dumped in the road. Is that correct?”
He replied: “Yes.”
Mr Bayle added: “It didn’t take me very long to tell that this was a crime scene and not an accident.”
The expert, a former forensics officer with the Metropolitan Police, also said the damage to the vehicles could not have been caused by a collision with a body and were more likely to have been hit with a “crowbar”.
He claimed a “very light sand” found on the two cars and Mr Duggan’s body must have come from the same place and would have washed off in the rain had Mr Duggan run to the crash site as had been suggested.
“In my opinion Mr Duggan has either gone through a quarry or building site,” he said.
In May 2010 the High Court ordered a fresh UK inquest after judges said evidence of possible foul play must be investigated.
The family have been fighting for 12 years for the case to be reopened.
They won a victory in December 2012 when the German Higher Court ruled that the Wiesbaden authorities’ original investigation had been flawed and opened a new inquiry, which is still ongoing.
The inquest continues.